Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Target Practice/Hunting For Berries

He told me how "This area was once all covered in water.  That's why the soil is so sandy."  I told him, "I want a cabin.  Right in the middle of the woods.  Maybe I'll find a little plot of land and just get one of those kind of cabins that you snap together, but then it couldn't be in an area with lots of wind or anything rambunctious like that."  He said, "Grandpa had two cabins in the woods on the farm."  I pictured it.  It was like a long lost memory.  And then I don't know if it was really a memory or my imagining a memory but I saw myself standing in the woods, tall as my dad's waist.  Looking at those cabins I remember thinking that's where Hansel and Gretel went!  Who lives there?  What is that place?  Why is there a stove?  Who cooks there?  Why are there bullet holes in it? And then he said, "The only replica I've seen of the porcelain stove that was in there was being sold for 37 thousand.  It was quite an antique."  "Where is it now," I asked and he said, "It's still there."  
"Why don't we get it?  I'd love to have it." 
"It's all shot up.  Cousin Vince shot it up with some of his buddies."
"Yep, they just shot up all the cabins."
And then I picture our pistols in the trunk and thought, well at least we are going to use targets, paper targets.  Ugh, why'd they have to be so dumb?  Why do cousins have to do weird stuff like that?  
Anyways I wondered if it was this memory, the picture of me wondering at these cabins in the middle of the woods, was my reason for wanting this myself.  If it's my desire to get back to that safe feeling of just being a child, the height of my dad's waist, stomping through the woods, absorbed in the magic of the green, the leaves, the wild animals, the sounds of leaves...
I knew exactly this is why my dad and I have the rituals we do.  He told me frankly, "I sure miss that farm."  I said, "me too."  We do this because while we are building new memories we are both trying to get back to that lost time full of comfort.  His father's farm.  I realized that day how much he loves and misses his dad.  For him, that farm is where the spirit of his father lives.  So we go to the game preserve right down the road from the farm and each time we do we drive past the house.  He points at the pines that line the vacant cornfield and says, "I planted those."  Last time I even got out and knocked on the door to see if whomever was there would let us go into the woods and walk around but no one was home.  Honestly, we are both a little afraid of who might be in that house.  We are afraid of what we might find out in the woods.  It's not so magical anymore as now it's just a house with a lot of land out in the middle of nowhere where no one does anything to keep it up.  He said, "all our restaurant tables and chairs are probably still in the barn.  If I had them I'd give them to you."  
"Geez dad, I don't know but I don't think I want the tables and chairs you got resale yourself in the 60's for your Polish diner.  I'm not sure it would fit my concept."
"Yep, that's a unique concept."
Back at the preserve we searched forever to find area 7 again.  When we did I found one lone blueberry.  All the rest had fallen already or the deer and squirrels ate them.  Everything is still coming early this year due to that hot streak back in March.  He pointed out sassafras that i just about walked on.  I stopped, knelt down and rubbed the leaves between my fingers and inhaled.  It's one of the most gorgeous smells.  I cut it down. 
We went down a gravel road to check out a tiny lake where there were bluegill and bass.  I told him, "you can eat lily pads."  He said he never did.  But the flowers were so beautiful he searched for a stick and pulled one out of the water while I looked for wild carrots.  I threw down what I pulled up, not certain if I might have had water hemlock instead.  We smelled the flower and it was approximately a  musty lily.  I wanted to eat it but I wasn't certain that I could.  I know the tubers of the lily pad can be consumed.  A future dish!!!!  "Lily Pads, Frog Legs, and Seaweed," of course.  
We stopped every so often along the side of the road so that I could hop out and grab elderberry flowers.  He said, "I never used the flowers.  Only the berries."  He told me to throw the flowers out because he only knows for certain that they are elderberries when the berries form in late summer, early fall.  He was concerned as I was earlier about the water hemlock but I was certain this time.  I couldn't help but think there is so much bounty in the woods I don't even know where to start.  
He told me, "where those mounds are you'll always find arrowheads."  We found arrowheads all the time in our garden on the tiny farm where I grew up.  They always seemed to show up after the garden was freshly tilled along with a heavy rain.  He said those mounds were where the Native Americans set up their camps, because of the water in this area they had to be high up.  He also said the duck hunters from Europe use to come to this area to hunt.  They treated it like people once treated safaris.  They'd make the 7 day boat ride across the Atlantic, then travel with carriages and horse.  I asked what they did with the ducks.  Did they preserve them somehow to take them back?  I was assuming they were hunting for their families, but he said, "no, maybe they ate some but it was just for sport."  He said they use to just go wild with killing animals.  That's why buffalo are now only ranched and no longer roam free.  Oh.
I'm thirty two years old and somehow my dad who certainly doesn't know everything, but has a way of saying it that you believe it, makes me still think he knows all the answers.  When we are out there, in the moment, I believe him.  This is the man that still asks if I think I should get a secretarial job at the Union.  Honestly I'm not even sure what the words, "secretarial job at the Union," mean.  This is the man that while not homophobic, worries about me because I'll never have a husband to take care of me.  But somehow,with all that I believe stories he tells me about what happened out on these farms and in these woods before they were irrigated or civilized as they are today.  I'm not sure what the truth is and I have other things I like to wikipedia.  But I know that when we go there together we go to a place that we both feel safe in.  A place that we remember we loved where we spent time with people we loved and escape from our everyday into the magic.
Over the 6 hours we spent together that day about half an hour was spent shooting guns, one hour was spent hunting berries.  The rest was willy nilly stomping and memory making.